Hobs, Hobthrushes and Hobmen (and Hobbits!)

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Hobs, Hobthrushes and Hobmen (and Hobbits!)

Hobs, Hobthrushes and Hobmen (and Hobbits!)

The character of Dobby from the popular Harry Potter series of books and films shares many characteristics of hobs.

Hobs - sometimes known by a rash of other of other names ('hobbit' is recorded as long ago as the 18th century: well before Tolkien applied the name to young Bilbo Baggins) are spirits somewhat akin to elves, who infest a home in a generally useful way, attending to household chores and cleaning. There is a rich legacy of hobs and hobmen in the North East of England and Yorkshire in particular, although the stories exist mainly as motifs in folklore rather than being associated with specific places or people - although a few are recorded, such as the Hob of Hart Hall in Glaisby.

One notable aspect of the Hob is that if it is gifted or rewarded with clothes by the owner of the household, it is likely to leave the house where it has been leaving. Often, a hob is said to be insulted by the quality of the clothes it has been given and storms out of the house, leaving the nonplussed owner to do their own household chores - although in other tales the giving of clothes is done as a means to get rid of an unwelcome hob. While in the main useful sprites to have around the house, an irked hob is also capable of mischief and can be difficult or impossible to get rid of.

If you have a passing familiarity with contemporary culture, this broad outline may well sound familiar to you. In the Harry Potter series of books and films, 'house elves' are portrayed as near-slaves to wizards and witches, who must remain as servants to a magical family until they are given the gift of clothes - at which point they are freed of their obligations. In that sense, it is almost certain that the character of Dobby can trace his origins back to the tradition of Hobs.

In the fairy tale The Shoe Maker and the Elves, we can also see Hob-like characteristics at work. The shoemaker, down on his luck and past his most productive years is aided by mysterious elves that make fabulous shoes on his behalf until he is once more a wealthy citizen. When he decides to repay the elves, it is in the form of little costumes for them to wear that the shoemaker lovingly crafts himself. Upon receiving these clothes, the helpful elves leave the shoemaker and are never seen again.

See also: folklore

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Author: Ian Freud   |  Last updated: 18th October 2013 | © Weird Island 2010-2019
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